Dear Immanuel Family,

As many of you know by now, last month, David Choate, one of our deacons, sent a lengthy letter to our deacons and to others, demanding my immediate resignation. He stated his belief that I was “untruthful and untrustworthy,” and that I had “failed to take appropriate action to protect Immanuel children.”

To be sure, the issue of abuse is close to Mr. Choate. His nephew was a victim of inappropriate sexual behavior involving an older Immanuel volunteer working in our youth music area in 2020. I would never want to minimize the pain, anguish, anger, and disillusionment his and his nephew’s families experienced.

His letter made further accusations against me and others who work and serve here, and I wanted to address several of those specifically. There are things in his letter that are simply not true, as well as things where he has wrongly assigned motive. While his letter dealt with numerous details, all of which I have addressed, in writing (some 20 pages), with the attorney conducting the initial investigation, it is the accusations impugning my character and integrity I feel most compelled to address directly with our church family at this time. I’ll speak to four of those here.

1. The May 2022 email to the church
I wrote an email to our church family in May of 2022, that said “[W]e have had, for many years, protocols in place that by God’s grace, have proven effective in the prevention of abuse.”  

This is a badly worded statement, and I regret making it. This could easily have been read to mean that we had never had abuse in this church, which is of course not true. Also, while we did have written policies/protocols in place since 2018, I clearly should not have said they had been in place for “many” years when it had only been about five. I’m sorry.

2. Church policies

Woven throughout the Choate letter is the accusation that Immanuel did not have policies in place to protect children. That just is not true.  We did have written policies in place beginning in 2018, my second year as your pastor. (While I can’t speak to efforts made by some to implement policies between 2014 and my arrival in 2017, I can speak to this issue during my tenure here.)

When Safe Sanctuary Policies were initially brought to Executive Pastor Doug Pigg, he received feedback from other staff suggesting the proposed policies were unwieldy and would have been difficult to administer. He then asked the staff to select the policies they believed were most important and could be implemented and monitored effectively, and we enacted those in the form of a two-page document for each ministry area.

While one can debate whether our policies were robust enough, or the perfect policies for a church, or adequately enforceable, it’s not debatable that we had policies. We have dated copies of the policies that were enacted in 2018.

We also have a 2018 email from our Preschool Director, where workers were asked to attend training that would include training on our child safety policies.

When the offending music volunteer was serving in the student area in 2020, there were in fact policies in place. Not only did we have policies in place, but she signed and dated a copy of them, as staff and volunteers were expected to do. (We have her signed document on file.)

I should also note, what happened to the student (Mr. Choate’s nephew), while immoral, tragic, and unacceptable, was not fully known to us at the time, as we only knew what the student and the volunteer admitted to us. At that time, we were only told the activity in question was “inappropriate texting.”

We could have improved our policies. We should have had a team, like we now have in our Caring Well Team, and a clear-cut system that would dictate what should happen when a policy violation occurs—in other words, how to report, enforce, and carry out punishment for violations. All of that is part of our standard procedure now. If we can further improve our procedures, we will.

Tragically, what took place in the incident that is central to Mr. Choate’s letter is that a volunteer read and signed our policy guidelines, violated them more than once, lied about it, and damage was done before we learned the full truth about the matter.

3. The music volunteer

Looking back, the offending music volunteer should never have been permitted to serve again in any Immanuel ministry working with young people. Period.

Now, much of what has been reported or said or written about this specific case has been untrue, inaccurate, misleading, or lacking important context. However, what is true is we allowed this volunteer to serve again.

While I’m thankful that, to our knowledge, she never repeated any of the offending behavior, I regret we ever allowed her to be in a position to do so, and am confident it wouldn’t happen today. Rather than unpacking how or why she returned to a volunteer role, I just want to underscore the fact that it never should have happened. It was wrong, and I apologize to those we hurt by allowing it to happen.

4. The implementation of Ministry Safe

On Sept 7, 2023, I sent an email to the church to clarify our next steps with the music volunteer. In that email I said that “Our congregation has adopted the Ministry Safe protocols…” Mr. Choate calls this an “outright lie.” Here are the facts:  

We paid the fee for Ministry Safe on September 1, 2022, fully one year before I wrote that email.

That same month, September 2022, we trained a pilot group and began to train our staff the following month.

I should more precisely have said “Our congregation has begun to implement the Ministry Safe protocols…” since we had, at that point, trained a pilot group and trained our staff, but were just beginning to implement it with all our teachers and workers. I take responsibility for the choice of words here, though don’t think it fair to characterize them as a lie..

Moving Forward

The past two months at Immanuel Baptist Church have been marked by swirling accusations, allegations, conflicting accounts, divisiveness, confusion, even anger. I have tried to provide helpful information and to answer questions as they were asked—but the wide range of emotions and confusion have persisted.

This is why I have proposed that we hire a fully independent firm with expertise in sexual abuse to conduct a thorough investigation and assessment of these matters.  A firm with this expertise will investigate abuse allegations and Immanuel’s response to reports of abuse. They will further conduct a review of policies relative to sexual abuse prevention, reporting, and response.

As you know we have a current investigation ongoing by our insurance company. We are grateful for this investigative work and believe it was a necessary first step. However, there are firms with specialized experience with Christian organizations, denominations, and churches. These firms are widely respected in the victim community and their work will be fully independent with full reign to interview anyone they wish, in strictest confidence, and to review any internal documents and communication.

Of course this step will be executed through our normal protocols and approval process as a church. As more information is available about this, we will make a further announcement.

In the meantime we ask for your patience and your prayers. This is important work, and we are seeking to do it in a way that honors God, above all.


The actions of those who have caused abuse at Immanuel were wrong and indefensible. I am heartbroken that anyone at Immanuel has ever been abused or harmed in any way. My response in handling both situations in question undoubtedly should have been better. Thanks to wise counsel, a season of learning about best practices, hearing victim stories, and the new investigation and assessment, my response will be better in the future.

As your shepherd it hurts me when one of our flock has been hurt. It is very painful. This is a moment for grieving with those who grieve, and for vigilance in protecting our church family moving forward. This is God’s church, not ours, and I pray for collective wisdom to be good stewards of all He has entrusted us with. Thank you for joining me in this mission.